The Ardross-man


September 2016

The Fire

I mentioned in a previous post, The Adviser, that I had found a Victorian booklet. Well, inside was this wonderful poem which describes the fire brigade from a different era;

The Fire

They are coming, they are coming,

Hark! I hear the fireman’s call;

They are rushing fast and quickly

To that building grand and tall.

Gallop on! O lovely horses,

Ride away! O men so brave;

Reach the frightened little children,

Do your best their lives to save.

Shining helmets, bright and golden,

Thick strong coats, and boots as well;

Look! I see them coming nearer,

I can hear a tinkling bell.

Now they put the ladder upwards,

Hark! The cries are loud and wild;

Bravo! Clap the noble firemen,

They have saved a little child.

-The Teachers’ Aid.

Now the oldest photo I could find of Ardrossan Fire Brigade was this one from around the 1920’s –


but although the firemen have “thick strong coats and boots as well” they don’t have horses or “shining helmets, bright and golden”. For that I had to look further back into the Victorian age and I found these two photos which show the fire brigade from around the 1880’s.

buntingford-fire-brigade -1890FireStation09 (Small).preview

100th Post

On the 6th November last year, I published my first post onto this blog – to be honest, a few short weeks before that, I didn’t even know what a blog was, so this has been a huge learning curve. 🙂

I still only know the basics and I have to admit, I get really envious of those blog writers who’s posts seem to come to life with different text fonts and animated cartoons – I have no idea how they do this! :-/

So, ten months after starting this journey, here I am writing my 100th post. Not bad for someone who thought they didn’t have much to say LOL.

Each of my faltering steps have been recorded – the highs (like opening the hall or getting funding for the toilets to be renovated) and the lows (like the ceiling partially collapsing at the entrance to the church or accidentally driving a rusty nail through my foot) so it is all here for anyone to read.

The Barony St. John has become a labour of love which I have strived through many an adversity to get to where I am today with the hall building partially open, a feasibility study hopefully on the way for the entire project (which will be the foundation stone for all future funding) and people actually attending our Centre for help to stay safe.

Since starting to teach personal safety and practical self defence back in 1997, I have lost count of the amount of victims of violence we have helped – but it must run into the thousands. And I always say that although we promote ourselves as personal safety / conflict resolution / self defence trainers, what we actually teach is self confidence.

Seeing how our training changes people’s lives is a joy – the greatest adrenaline rush of all – and the reason for me to keep on going.

Ultimately, it was this satisfaction of helping others that made me buy the Barony St. John and I’m hopeful that it will become a place of sanctuary, refuge, healing, learning and most importantly, fun. 😀

I hope you will join me for the next 100 posts and remember……


The Blind leading the Blind

As I’ve mentioned before, the original reason for buying the disused and abandoned Barony St. John church and halls in Ardrossan, Scotland was to have a base for my charity – The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety.

Since opening up the hall room in the hall building last month, we have seen a flurry of activity, what with our own personal safety courses, first aid training for the local community, victims of violence contacting us direct for one-to-one training sessions and renting the hall out to other dance and exercise instructors for public classes.

Yesterday, we held imageour Instructor training day in the hall and this involved not only refresher first aid and physical skills training but I also invited a charity, Scottish War Blinded, along to teach us all how to interact with blind / visually impaired people and to be better understand the sight loss they are experiencing. This will help us as we develop our Personal Safety for the Blind and Visually Impaired course.

The training was presented by two Scottish War Blinded staff, Sharon McAllister and Sandra Graham, who brought with them a variety of glasses designed to demonstrate how different levels of blindness affect a person (macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, retinitis pigmentosa, etc.) as well as different types of canes.

image image imageimage image

The canes are used by the blind and visually impaired to not only stay mobile but to also inform other members of the public of their condition. The first cane is called a “symbol cane” and is a short holding stick only about two feet long and is held out by a blind person to show the public that he/she is blind and may bump into you.

The second cane is called a “guide cane” and is a longer cane which reaches almost to ground level and is used to find obstacles.

The third type of cane is a “long cane” and reaches to the ground where it can either be tapped or rolled, via a ball attachment on the tip, to enable the blind person to walk around towns avoiding obstacles such as people, kerbs, lampposts, etc.

All the canes are white to signify that the person holding it is blind or visually impaired however if you happen to come across someone with a red and white banded cane, this signifies that the user is someone with a hearing impairment as well as sight loss.

Sharon and Sandra then took myself and other blindfolded ScotCPS instructors out on a guided walk around Ardrossan town, much to the amusement of passers-by, including crossing the busy seafront road.

image  image image Although scary and daunting, this training gave all of our instructor team a greater understanding of what it must be like to be visually impaired and the huge number of obstacles blind people face just to remain mobile.


Wallace art

We have been lucky enough to have another local artist, John ‘Josimo’ Paterson, contact us with an offer to paint William Wallace themed murals around the internal walls of the Barony St. John church building which will link in nicely with our planned William Wallace Visitor Centre.

John’s work has been showcased at various art exhibitions around the world including London and presently, Paris. He has also won the ‘Best Global Artist’ award in Vienna and the ‘Best Graphics’ award in Romania and he has very generously offered to paint a variety of murals around the upper floor gallery and entrance to the church building.

John’s painting of William and Marion will give you an idea of how lifelike his paintings are.


Imagine scenes including the taking of Ardrossan Castle and you’ll begin to see the wonderful images we hope to showcase on the walls of the Barony St. John…….now that’s a Wow Factor!!

John’s style can be traditional life drawings as above or more modern paintings as shown below – “Ostara – First Day of Spring” and “Don Juan”.

spring  josimo

I love both the styles – the traditional would obviously fit with the historical theme of Wallace as well as the church, whereas the modern look would give the church a contemporary, up to date feel to it.

I particularly love the Ostara – First Day of Spring painting as it has so many hidden aspects – the jigsaw fields moving from the shadowy winter to the colourful Spring, the rabbits hidden in plain sight, the owl, the flowers for Mother Nature’s hair, the different types of flowers, etc.


Check out Josimo’s Facebook page – – for more of his wonderful artwork.

I’m sure you will agree that this will also look fantastic especially when connected with our William Wallace Visitor Centre (see my previous post).

But what style would YOU choose for the wall murals?

Ceiling collage

Looking up at the ceiling of the Barony St. John church, I’m struck by how similar a design it is to the entertainment venue, Oran Mor in Glasgow.

The Oran Mor is a converted church turned bar, restaurant and music venue that has become one of Scotland’s most popular nightspots and acclaimed writer and artist, Alasdair Gray was the man responsible for painting the zodiac inspired mural on the ceiling.

Oran1  Oran2

The ceiling in the Barony St. John is almost identical in design. The same concave ceiling with wooden beams stretching across it just crying out to be re-painted.

DSC01360  DSC01354

Local artist, Julia Griffin and her assistant, Lynn McNally, have put forward a design of a night sky complete with Celtic Zodiac characters in keeping with our church history and our planned William Wallace theme.

DSC01784  DSC01782

Her idea is to combine the Celtic zodiac of animals (see my post: Omen 8 – The Wolf Omen) and the Celtic zodiac of trees making this work of art truly unique and a great talking point for people to discuss and figure out what character signifies their birthday.

Some of the draft character ideas look absolutely stunning and I cannot wait to see the finished look.

bird framed          stag framed

One thing is for sure, if we pull this off, our Events Centre is going to have a wonderful Wow Factor!

Omen 8 – The Wolf Omen

You know I am a great believer in Omens and this Barony St. John project has had more than it’s fair share.

In other posts I’ve told you about The Ardross-Ardrossan Omen, The Star of David Omen, The Instructor Omen, The Church OmenThe SAS OmenThe Owner Omen and The Elder Omen – well now we have The Wolf Omen.

That’s 8 Omens – must be a record!

Local artist Julia Griffin came in with her designs for a collage for the ceiling of the church (more about that in a later post) and one of her designs caught my eye – it was of a Celtic wolf.


This photo is taken from her design collage and the reason why I feel it is another Omen is that this wolf design was first discovered in 1890 on a stone monolith found in Ardross in the Scottish Highlands – the very village I have just moved down from (hence the name of this blog “The Ardross-man”).

This very stone / design is the logo of Ardross Primary School where my children go to school.

School wolf

Now, look at the shape of the front leg of the wolf in the school logo. Look at the face of the wolf. Look at the curved lines on the shoulder of the wolf. Look at the way the lines curve on it’s hind legs. Look at all of this and compare it to Julia’s wolf design.

This isn’t just a likeness of the Ardross wolf, it’s almost a replica.

Now, it’s no big deal that a local artist in Ardrossan, North Ayrshire would choose a Celtic wolf design and draw it almost identically to a Pictish wolf design – but this is the very same wolf design found in my previous home town of Ardross AND it’s used by my children’s school as a  logo?

I’d say, the chances of that happening were pretty remote – unless it was another Omen. 🙂

The Adviser

imageA few posts ago, I told you about the renovation of The Locker Arch and how I found a bunch of old leaflets and Church of Scotland paraphernalia. Well, as I mentioned in It’s a Dog’s Life, one of those items was a booklet titled “The Advertiser”.

It has, on the front cover, a drawing of some children dancing, a female adult (the mother?) playing the piano in the background, an adult male (the father?) standing in the background watching the ten children dancing and way in the back is a table with what could be a cake on it.

My guess was that this is a well-to-do child’s birthday party – which proved correct when I read the story inside. 🙂

The adults are dressed very finely with expensive looking clothes and the children are also dressed in attire that is definitely not working class clothing. imageOne child, a boy, has a sailor’s outfit on, another is in full Highland dress and the girls are all dressed in beautiful dresses with their hair set with ribbons.

I love the detail in this drawing of the boy’ sporran and the girl’s hair, necklace and shoes. Beautiful!

The story inside gives a fascinating insight into life during Victorian times and tells of a young girl, May Arnott, who opts to take a night off from studying the night before an exam in order to go to her friend, Hattie Gray’s birthday party;

“It was a splendid party. They played so many dear old-fashioned children’s games – “Here we loo-be-loo”, “musical chairs”, and May was the happiest of the happy. In spite of her nearly fourteen years, she romped and frisked like a little kitten. It seemed to her only a little time after tea, when she suddenly be-thought of her promise to return early. The time-piece on the mantel had stopped, but she heard the old clock in the hall striking “nine” and she slipped out to see. Oh, May! It was striking eleven with deliberate strokes. She flew to the cloak-room, and got on her goloshes and wraps but it was half-past eleven when she got home and worship had long been over. Mrs. Gray’s servant had come with her and left her at her own door. Their own sleepy maid let her in. Father and mother had retired for the night and the weary maid did not even wait to blow out the candle.”

The story goes on to reveal that her going to the party meant she had not studied enough and she failed the exam;

“May Arnott went home empty-handed, heavy-hearted, with the “lesson” bought by bitter experience branded in brain and memory, until it became a stepping-stone whereon to rise to higher things.”

The story is titled “Too Easy Going” and I presume as the title of the booklet is “The Adviser” it is designed to be a cautionary tale for children that they need to study hard in order to succeed….even although it sounds a bit harsh that one night off could spell disaster. 😦

I’ll reveal more from this booklet in future posts.

Krav Maga Kids

We had a brilliant night of Krav Maga (self defence) training at The Barony St. John on Thursday evening.

The kids sessikrav1ons have been christened “Braveheart Krav Maga” to honour the memory of William Wallace and his successful battle to seize Ardrossan Castle from the occupying English garrison in 1297.

Max and Craig certainly put their heart and soul into defending themselves against our Redman instructor – even managing to disarm him when he pulled out a knife (rubber, of course) 😀

I’ll keep you informed of other goings on in the hall building, any more historical documents I find and the progress of the church building as it happens. Watch this space! (y)

krav2 krav3 krav4 krav5

Omen 7 – The Elder Omen

Ok, you know something is meant to be when you get Omen after Omen telling you so –

So far, there have been 6 Omens which I have mentioned in other posts – 1. The Ardross-Ardrossan Omen, 2. The Star of David Omen, 3. The Instructor Omen, 4. The Church Omen, 5. The SAS Omen and 6. The Owner Omen.

Now, when I knocked down some old lockers in the hall building of Barony St. John, I found some annual reports from New Ardrossan Parish Church (as it was known back then).

The accounts date from 1906 and 1909 and apart from a bit of dirt on the front cover, look brand new.

image       image

What interested me and must surely be another omen was when I looked inside and read the list of Elders. Included in this list of names was my brother’s name – David Bell.

image  image

In the 1909 annual accounts, it details not only the Elders but also members of the Poor Fund Committee. David Bell was on both these lists.

Spooky connection or what? 🙂

Now add this to the fact that the only other name on the title deeds of the Barony St. John apart from mine (Alan Bell) is John Bell – not my father (same name) but a John Bell from 1844 (see Omen 6. The Owner Omen).

Who would have guessed that 171 years later, another Bell would buy the church?

What are the chances of that?

Spoooooky! 😀

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